Getting on the (Block) Chain Gang

We've been watching the use of blockchain growing in the government space as agencies look for ways to more efficiently and securely share their data. A Congressional Resolution was introduced to tout the promise of blockchain saying that, "blockchain has incredible potential that must be nurtured through support for research and development and a thoughtful and innovation-friendly regulatory approach." Following this encouragement from congress, it seems like each day there is a new application of the technology being tried and evaluated.

We've gathered a couple applications that we found interesting to help illustrate what blockchain is and what it can do.

  • Supply Chain - The Navy is looking to use blockchain to track aviation parts throughout their lifecycles, helping them better manage their supply chain. Similarly, the FDA is looking at how blockchain can better track the chain of custody of prescription drugs. In a related application, blockchain is also being considered as a solution for better tracking digital evidence in criminal cases.
  • Managing Public Records - State and local organizations are using blockchain to digitally distribute records, including marriage certificates, property titles, and business registrations.
  • Voting - Blockchain is being tested as a way to make it easier for service members and overseas citizens to vote. Last fall, 144 West Virginia voters living abroad were able to vote through their mobile phones via an app. Identities were confirmed by scanning a valid U.S. ID along with a selfie. Once the identity was confirmed, voters made their selections based on the ballot they would have used at their local precinct. Voters were then given a unique ID or hash that, once the vote was cast, allowed them to write on to the blockchain. Each submission was encrypted to the blockchain ledger, which gave election clerks the ability to conduct post-election audits.
  • Public Health - Blockchain can also speed the delivery of information as it relates to public health crises. The Food and Drug Administration is looking at how to use blockchain to share health care data securely and effectively in real time when epidemics like the swine flu threaten the health of the nation.

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Getting a Pulse on Health and Human Services

The federal healthcare market is a dynamic space that plays a role in many of today's key political and societal challenges. From insurance reform, to identity theft and ransomware attacks, to a focus on the opioid crisis, healthcare has been front and center in the news cycles. Agencies across the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) are intimately involved in responses to these challenges. It is a large and complex organization that relies on the help of industry partners to meet the ever-evolving public health needs of the nation.[Tweet "Getting a Pulse on Health and Human Services. #GovEventsBlog"]

Some current key challenges facing the Department are:

  • IT modernization - About 40 percent of the systems of record in HHS are legacy systems in need of modernization. The agency has a goal of bringing 30 percent of its operational systems into the cloud in the coming years. It will do this with an annual IT spend of $13.8 billion.
  • Interoperability - As part of the IT modernization, HHS is looking at interoperability as a key solution. Interoperability, of course, has a technical component, including looking at key tech trends such as blockchain and HL7 FHIR. There is also the need for process interoperability, including changing procurement policy and practices.
  • HIPAA - Having been on the books for over 20 years, HIPAA is still evolving to meet the needs of today's providers and patients. In an age of data breaches, compliance with HIPAA security guidance is a key focus of all health organizations. While IT security may be getting beefed up, other guidance is being loosened to better serve the public health. Recently, HHS released new guidance on when and how healthcare providers can share a patient's health information with family members, friends, and/or a legal representative when a patient is in crisis from opioid abuse.[Tweet "Key challenges facing the HHS include: IT Modernization, Interoperability and HIPAA #GovEventsBlog"]

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Healthy Body, Healthy Mind, Healthy Conference

Winter is cold and flu season, but it is also prime conference time. This reality sent us looking for tips on how to stay healthy when you are in a confined space with 100 to 1000 of your newest friends. We've pulled together this quick list as a resource for us all.

  • Hand washing and sanitizer - It goes without saying you should frequently wash your hands or at the very least use hand sanitizer. Event planners should consider making hand sanitizer dispensers readily available. Small versions that fit in your pocket should be on your attendee checklist of event must-haves, right below business cards.[Tweet "Tips for staying healthy when attending events. #GovEventsBlog"]
  • Walk - Get outside for fresh air if you can. If not, take laps around the convention center or hotel to get your blood moving and keep you from the prolonged exposure to germs you would get sitting at lobby chairs and tables. You can even schedule meetings while taking your walk. If you are flying to your meeting, health professionals suggest walking the plane aisle once every hour to promote better circulation.
  • Eat well - Eat foods with high nutritional value, such as fruits, vegetables, nuts and seeds. Event planners should look at their menus to make sure these are available to attendees and also consider adding teas and other drinks with Echinacea, ginseng, vitamin C, and probiotics to help bolster the immune system.
  • Pace yourself - Events and conference are notoriously draining--all day sessions followed by all night parties and networking. While it's tempting to try to do it all, make sure you are pacing yourself and listening to your body. Getting quality sleep helps tremendously in your ability to fight off illness.[Tweet "While it's tempting to try to do it all, make sure you are pacing yourself. #GovEventsBlog"]
  • Wear your glasses - If you are flying or even taking a train to your event, switch out your contacts for glasses. With contacts, eyes dry out more easily and that creates a more hospitable breeding ground for germs. Glasses also make it less likely that you will touch your eyes, transferring germs that way.

[Tweet "Winter is cold and flu season, but it is also prime conference time. #GovEventsBlog"]We'd love to hear your tips for combining professional development with immunity development. Let us know your thoughts in the comments!

A Check-Up on Healthcare Events

Healthcare is a critical topic in the federal market. From the Affordable Care Act to HIPAA compliance, to cyber threats, the federal healthcare community is facing an enormous amount of change and outside pressures.[Tweet "Federal healthcare community is facing an enormous amount of change. #GovEventsBlog"] While providers need (and want) to focus on delivering more personalized medicine leading to better patient outcomes, all of these "back-office" issues need to be addressed to help them do just that.

Like any topic, there are a wide range of events that meet the education and training of the healthcare community. HIMSS is widely recognized as the must-attend event for the healthcare IT community. But beyond this annual event, there are many other options for the government health community to learn about and discuss the latest trends in care and health IT management.[Tweet "There are many event options for the government health community. #GovEventsBlog"]

We've pulled together a number of valuable events happening through the end of this year that span the wide range of topics that impact the federal health community. Continue reading